LIEUTENANT COLONEL RICHARD ALEXANDER ROOTH
ROYAL DUBLIN FUSILERS
25TH APRIL 1915 AGE 49
BURIED: V BEACH CEMETERY, GALLIPOLI, TURKEY
V Beach 25 April 1915, 6.30 am
"Up to the last moment it seemed that the Turkish defences had been abandoned; but just as the River Clyde grounded, and when the boats were only a few yards from the shore, Hell was suddenly let loose. A tornado of fire swept over the incoming boats, lashing the calm waters of the bay as with a thousand whips. Devastating casualties were suffered in the first few seconds. Some of the boats drifted helplessly away with every man in them killed. Many more of the Dublins were killed as they waded ashore. Others, badly wounded, stumbling in the water, were drowned. ... Few of the boats were able to get off again. Most of them, with their devoted crews, were destroyed on the beach. The ripples placidly lapping the shore were tinged with blood."
With this vivid piece of writing, Military Operations Gallipoli, Volume 1, compiled by Brigadier-General C.F. Aspinall, described the first few minutes of the attempted landing on V Beach in which Lt Colonel Rooth, Officer Commanding the 1st Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers "was killed instantly as he was stepping on the beach".
Rooth is buried at V Beach Cemetery. Initially he was buried in a joint grave with The Revd William Joseph Finn the Roman Catholic padre also killed on the beach. Ernest Raymond, author of the famous Gallipoli novel, Tell England, described Finn in a much later novel, The Quiet Shore (1958).
"D'you know who that padre fellah is? He's the Dublins' and Munsters' chaplain: Father Finn, or some such name. I was with him in the bows of the Clyde, watching, and when he saw hundreds of his boys lying on the beach, he said "I can't stand this, Colonel. Dammit, my bloody place is out there" - or whatever it is padres say. And Irish padres at that. And he rushed out, though several tried to stop him. A pretty stout fellah you know. But all these Irishmen are. All of 'em."
This might have been a novel but it captures the spirit of the man, which is echoed in this factual account:
"He (Finn) certainly spent a considerable part of the day beside dying soldiers as there was an abundance of them at V Beach. He attempted to save a number of drowning and wounded men before being hit himself, in the right arm. He managed to get ashore and crawled around the beach offering help or consolation to the wounded and dying Dublins and Munsters. In order to give absolution he had to hold up an injured right arm with his left. While he was blessing one of the men in this fashion, there was a shrapnel burst above him which blew part of his skull away. He was buried on the beach and his grave marked with a cross made out of an ammunition box 'To the memory of the Revd Capt Finn'."